Lesli Englert Yazzie's Overalls and No-Nonsense Aesthetic

Lesli Englert Yazzie is the first to admit that she's not much of a fashionista. Hang out with her at her studio and home inside The Longhouse on any given day and you're likely to see the painter dressed in her standard uniform of a tanktop and overalls. 

"I love to paint my characters in lovely costumes, things that I would find impossible to wear. Things I wish I could pull off," she says. "I love fashion. I wanted to be a fashion designer. I learned how to draw by copying images from Seventeen magazine and the JCPenney catalog. When I was a kid I had my designs set on being a model. I was supposed to be feminine and fashion obsessed but things didn't quite work out that way."

Yazzie will occasionally get dolled up, but on any given First Friday when she welcomes art walk patrons into the Longhouse, she'll be wearing a vintage hand-me-down dress inherited from her sister Lori (whom she describes as her "style counselor.")

Read on to find out more about Yazzie's love for overalls and her no-nonsense views on fashion.

What are you wearing?
A pair of engineer's overalls, some flip flops from Target, and a one-size fits all tanktop from Tilly's. I own 10 of them.

What's your favorite outfit to wear?
Basically what I'm wearing. I have several versions of the same outfit, tanktops in several colors, as well as roughly eight or nine pairs of overalls in varying lengths, depending on the weather. I like to shake things up a bit, shock people with shin-length overalls one day, then do a drastic change the next day by putting on a pair of full-length ones. Seriously, I do this.

Why do you dig coveralls so much?
I'm a painter. And I clean my house and my studio obsessively, so it helps to have freedom of movement in my clothing. Also, my ass looks great in a pair of baggy ole coveralls. Keeps the boys guessing.

You also girlie it up a bit, right?
Oh, I put on my lipstick every single day. A little smell nice, I keep my toenails freshly painted, that sort of stuff. First Fridays are my day to shine. My sister recently moved to Phoenix from Portland, so she's become my style counselor. She usually shows up a few hours ahead of time to give me a fashion overhaul and won't let me get away with looking dumpy (although I usually get my way in some respects). I typically bust out one of my many grey outfits or one of my many black striped shirts with a pair of Gap jeans (when I get my way) or a skirt or dress (when she gets her way). They're usually hand-me-downs, or something she's forced me to purchase from our many thrift store outings. I have a tendency to dress like whomever I tend to be shopping with. You can tell who I've been hanging out with by what I'm wearing outside of the studio. It's blatantly obvious.

What's the last item of clothing you bought?
I recently procured a badass periwinkle blue wool knee-length button-down jacket with a belt at Savers for 10 bucks.

Where do you usually shop?
Savers, Ross, The Gap, Banana Republic, and my sisters closet (not the store, I mean - literally -- my own sister Lori's closet). It's difficult to answer because I have no problem dropping a hundred bucks on a tube of good paint, but spending more than 10 dollars on a shirt just seems indulgent and silly to me. I've also made some great purchases at Butter Toast Boutique -- a knee-length white knit wool sweater coat that I purchased for the sole reason that it made me feel like an east coast lobster fisherman. My dream job.

What item of clothing do you most covet at the moment?
All of them.

Where would you love to have a shopping spree?
I'd love to have a complete makeover. I'd love a $5000 dollar spree at Banana Republic. I wouldn't want to go too out of my comfort zone on my first shot at a makeover because I'd completely screw it up. Any sort of makeover may be a waste on me since I don't dine out much, and have no need for fancy things unless an occasion arises. Or perhaps the occasion never arises because I have no clothes for it? Who knows. A lady often wonders.

Give us a childhood memory of you and clothes:
I grew up really poor. There was no money for clothes. There weren't thrift stores in my town in the early '80s. Thrifting was a serious shame where I came from [the Midwest], worse than shopping at K-Mart. I spent a good deal of my paper route money buying vintage hats and trench coats at the Salvation Army and selling them to my friends for piddly cash. None of my friends were brave enough to enter the Salvation Army.

There was also this dress I coveted from the JCPenney catalog with black with white polka dots. I begged for it. I was too naive to understand that 4 years after my coveted dress came out -- it was no longer available. There went my illusions of how to spend my paper route money. I'm still jealous of that little brunette girl in my polka dot dress. I don't think I've ever coveted anything so much in my entire life.

Name an item of clothing that's best when it's vintage:
A coat, absolutely. I [have] many coats and they are the only thing that I own many of that is all vintage.

Name five items every woman should have in her closet:
1. A good pair of hose
2. Versatile shoes
3. A pair of Jeans with an adjustable button
4. An adorable hairclip
5. Tilly's tank tops. Because they really do slim you. (And for seven bucks, how can you say no?)

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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.